A 13-year-old was behind the wheel of the pickup truck thathead-on into a passenger van on Tuesday, killing nine people, the National Transportation Safety Board announced Thursday. The truck crossed the center line of a Texas highway before crashing into the van, which was carrying members of the University of the Southwest men's and women's golf teams.
The driver and passenger in the 2007 Dodge pickup truck died. NTSB Vice Chair Bruce Landsberg identified the driver of the pickup truck as a "13-year-old child," and he said the crash occurred after the left front tire, which was a spare, failed.
"No matter how many times we go through one of these investigations, we understand the gravity and the tremendous pain that goes along with," Landsberg said Thursday.
There was an "extensive" fire in both vehicles after the crash, but officials were able to identify the driver by the size of the remains. In Texas, students can begin the classroom portion of drivers education when they are 14 years old, but they must be 15 to qualify for a learner's permit.
Six University of the Southwest students and one staff memberin the crash. The student-athletes were identified as Travis Garcia, 19; Karissa Raines, 21; Mauricio Sanchez, 19; Tiago Sousa, 18; Laci Stone, 18; and Jackson Zinn, 22. Southwest administration also confirmed the death of coach Tyler James, 26.
Two students Dayton Price, 19, and Hayden Underhill, 20, were severely injured in the crash and airlifted to a Lubbock hospital. Southwest Provost Dr. Ryan Tipton said in a press conference Thursday that both students are recovering slowly and one is able to eat.
Officials added Thursday that a large number of the passengers on the van were not wearing a seatbelt, and at at least one passenger was ejected from the vehicle.
The NTSB, which is not responsible for any criminal charges, will continue investigating the crash and make additional recommendations to prevent future crashes. A final report is expected in the next 12 to 18 months.